Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cebu Island : Philippines

We arrived in Cebu in the early afternoon on the 25th and it was a smooth hour and a half flight and it was so cool to look down and see all the different islands that make up the Philippines. We took a 20 minute van ride to the hotel and got the royal treatment when we checked in! Here is a picture of us in the lobby of the hotel and again in the lounge on the 21st floor where we stayed. We hung out in the lounge for a while and then left to go meet Cecilia and her family including her Uncle Demie and Auntie Perla at the Lapu-Lapu shrine that was only a 10 minute walk away. We walked along the road to check out the local scene and there were some adorable kids following us and they loved to get their picture taken.
We made it to the shrine and walked out on the pier to find that the lake dried all up because the tide went out- it was low tide. Everyday in the late afternoon, the tide goes out and you can see all the boats docked close by sitting on the bottom of the ocean floor. We took some pictures there and then headed into the little market right next door to go to Sutukil (stands for sumba tulu kilaw- basically means you can have it any way you want it). Its a seafood restaurant where they lay out all the seafood you can choose from and you pick out what you want and then they cook it for you. Since this was our first time, Uncle Demie showed us what was good and how much to pick out- although you know that its always much more than we need. They had everything you could imagine, and some you probably couldn't imagine- like parrot fish. Do people actually eat parrot fish? I guess they do here! They also had crabs, shrimp, lobster, squid, etc..- you name it… and everything was huge! We ate next to the original "No Problem Restaurant" that was the oldest one there, now there are a bunch of new ones- and all of them were pretty much on the water and open-air. It was pretty hot, but the table that we had had a fan and we were getting some breeze off the water. There wasn't too many people there because it is considered low season right now here in the Philippines since its rainy season. (It did rain a little bit each day, but usually the showers were over in 10 minutes, literally.)

There was a total of 11 of us and the whole bill came to a little over 7000 pesos or PHP which comes to about $180 dollars basically, or roughly 15 bucks a person. Pretty good for all you can eat, plus drinks for 11 people! We even took some left overs home. We finished around 9:30pm and retired to the hotel. We were sooo exhausted from the day. Cecilia and I stayed in one room and everybody else stayed in the other room. The views from the room were spectacular, especially in the morning when the sun rises and at night to watch the sun set. You can see all of Mactan Island from the balcony and we were surrounded by water. It was neat to watch the tide go out at night and watch the boats slowly be placed right on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tagaytay : Taal Volcano

On Monday, we decided to head to Tagaytay which is about three hours away from Angeles City. Thank god we have Joel driving us around everywhere! We couldn't have gone to all of these places without him.

It was a pretty smooth ride all the way up, of course except the crazy traffic we encountered in Manilla. We went straight to Josephine's- which is a restaurant that sits up high the mountain where you can see the most amazing view of Taal Volcano and the surrounding islands. Here is a panoramic view of what it looks like.It was a bit overcast so it was hard to see, but clouds and fog would roll in and out. One minute you would see nothing but white from the fog and the next you would see the full on landscape. It was crazy how quickly the view changed.

After lunch, we followed our tour guide down the mountain so that we could take a boat (much like our boats in Boracay- see below) to where Taal Volcano was. It was about a 30 minute boat ride and then they dumped us off to a place where you had to get on your horse to head up the volcano to see the crater. Right when we got there, people swarmed around us to sell us hat, glove and mask rentals for 50 pesos each. Because the sun was beating down on us- we had to rent hats for the ride up. Uncle Rey, Winnie, Joel and myself took the horses up the mountain and it was the scariest ride ever! The horses were pretty tame and we each had a "guide" with us but it still was pretty scary going up some of those steep paths! Joel was wayyyy ahead of us because his horse just took off... and at one point, we were all spread out. I was just riding along on my horse and all of a sudden, Uncle Rey comes up behind me and says- "Wow, Riza- I didn't know you were a professional horseman!" I didn't know what he was talking about so I carefully turned around (because if you do it too fast you will fall off the horse!) and noticed that my guide was gone!!! I don't know how long I had been riding by myself but then I started to freak out! Shortly there after, my guide showed back up! I was sooo mad at him for leaving me!
Again, the terrain was much like Macchu Pichu and it took us an hour up and about 45 minutes back. Those horses booked it down the mountain! Winnie ended up with blisters around her tailbone from the ride! Hope she gets better!!!!

After the strenuous horse ride- we stopped at some fruit stands to get some delicious pineapple and other exotic fruits to bring back to Angeles. Then we went to Chow King for some halo halo (of course!) before heading back to Angeles on our 3 hour ride back. It was a great time and I am looking forward to hiking or riding up Mount Arayat our next trip in. Unfotunately, this trip we won't have enough time to do it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Bicks" and "No more Rice, please!"

Ok, so I am waiting for everyone to finish getting ready to leave for the airport- we will be in Cebu by 1:30pm (Only an hour and a half flight and we leave at noon from the Clark airport)!!! Yea!!! It's only 10am right now so I decided to post a little something.

So, my cousin Winnie last night was telling me about how her office does "Feng Shui" and once a year, they invite a Feng Shui expert to come to the office and he burns piles of coals throughout the office and says some prayers to ward away the evil spirits. According to this expert, there were 10,000 bad evil spirits lingering... I can't believe he could count them all. Actually, a few years ago- to ward off the evil spirits they would sacrifice chickens and put their blood everywhere but the expert said that what that actually did was invite the evil spirits in the office. Interesting, huh?

Anyway- my point to that story was that my cousin was outside during all of this and got bit by a bug of some sort and apparently, she is really allergic because it got so swollen that it was almost the size of the top of her hand. But to make it better- she put Vick's on it= (the vapor rub stuff). Not sure how many of you have seen the happyslip.com videos, but there is a joke in there about how Filipino's use Vicks as a cure-all to any problem you may have- and they pronounce it- "Bicks."

Ok- so the other thing is... I can't eat any more rice! I feel like I've eaten so much that I am just swollen everywhere. I feel so bloated! They eat rice with everything- even with their burger from Jollibee (the local Burger King). They serve rice in ALL food places, its hilarious! If you want pizza... you can get that with rice!

That's it for now.. will blog more later! Hope everyone is doing well...Oh- the pictures above are of my cute niece and nephews- Kayla, Carl, Curt and Clyde!

Greenhills in Ortigas : Hiking Mount Pinatubo

Well, we have been keeping busy, very busy since I last blogged but right now, its Tuesday at 10:20am and we are going through the toll to get into Manilla to get to the Divisoria. Joel forgot that on Tuesdays, they only let certain tags (car tags) in at certain times and thank god we came at the right time (after 10am) but have to leave Manilla by 3pm because of this coding. Because the population of Manilla is so overcrowded, they limit who can come in the city and what time and what time you have to leave. So instead of leaving today at 4pm like we originally planned, we have to leave by 2pm to be out by 3pm! Oh well- we are going to have to shop fast! On Saturday, Cecilia, Uncle Rey, Winnie, Joel and I went to Green Hills- which is like the Divisoria but a Tiangee for upperclass people. Everything is fixed price, they won't go down really and if you walk away- they will let you! Not like the Divisoria where we are going today. We spent all day there until Cecilia's cousin Edwin and dad picked her up to go back to Kavite and we headed back to Angeles. Because Winnie took off work and I really don't have much time to spend with my cousins, I went back to Angeles instead of going with Cecilia to her dad's home town. After all, I will be in Cebu with her and her family for nearly 5 days this week. On Sunday, Winnie and her high school friends and Jon Jon, Reyann, Uncle Rey and I headed to Mt. Pinatubo to do a hike. It took us around an hour and a half to get to where you have to check in as it was around 1000 pesos per person to hike- we also stopped at Jollibee to get cheese burgers- and yes, and rice and chicken! They served individual rice servings in little wrappers that were the size of a small jewelry box. The hike was really tough.. it reminded me much of Macchu Pichu- steep hills to climb, lots of little rivers and brooks that cut across our path that we had to carefully cross. It was much tougher than any of us thought and it took about an hour to hike there- but once we go there- the views were amazing! The crater was huge and the water was crystal clear like a swimming pool. Uncle Rey and I paid one of the locals 100 pesos to take us on a boat ride into the center of the crater so we can take pictures. He told us a little bit of history about this active volcano's crater that was last active in 1991 (when it destroyed our families homes-massive destruction)- there are 3 tunnels underneath that help control how much water is inside the crater and all 3 tunnels dump out into the China Sea. Also, the highest point of Mount Pinatubo is also the same distance as the deepest point of the crater! Along the side of the crater, there are hot springs- so hot that if we went across it in our plastic boat, it would melt the bottom. But we got as close as we could and you could see the water boiling at the top!
Because tourism is down in the Philippines due to all the crime, there was hardly anyone on this trek so it was neat to go when it was just us along the trail to the crater. I have a feeling in 5 or 10 years when this becomes more known, there will be a ton of people trekking Mt. Pinatubo! We did run into some Europeans that were there hiking as well and they were having a great time. It would be great to do a 2 or 3-day trek because we actually took 4 x 4's all the way to the bottom of the volcano and then started trekking. It was quite an experience and it was crazy to see the "locals" basically living in the jungle. Here is a picture of some kids playing on their "basketball court" - they eat what they grow or what they can find and don't have any means for schooling ,etc..

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Philippines, Day 1

Well guys, I am pretty sure I won't be able to blog everyday- but I did want to give you a quick recap and let you know that we made it safely to the Philippines. Rach, not sure if my text messages are going through but I sent you a couple since I've been here letting you know that I was with Winnie, etc... Traveling back and forth to Manilla and other far away places, I bring my computer so I can write a little bit on the way. Right when we landed, it was about noon in the Philippines and although we had been traveling and layed over for almost 24 hours, we were wide awake ready to go to Angeles City, which was about an hour and a half drive from Manilla (where the main airport is). Joel and Winnie picked us up and we headed straight for the hospital where my Uncle Willie was diagnosed with cancer in his kidney and they were going to perform surgery to get it out. They were going to have to take out one, but the other one remained. Apparently, you can have only 25% of your kidney and still have it remain functional like if you had a whole one. When we got there, Auntie Malou and the rest of the party including my Uncle Nick and family were there carrying on in the room while he layed there recovering. It was like a party was going on... totally filipino style. My Uncle Malou JUST getting out of surgery trying to recover and everyone laughing and telling stories all around him in his little hospital room. It was quite a scene. As we walked down the hall to leave, it was funny to see EVERY other patient room just the same way- overflowing with family and friends.
After leaving the hospital, we went to kill some time by going to get some Halo Halo at Razon's which was really super good- just had the basics not all the other crazy stuff in it that some people put in there. Halo Halo is a filipino desert with shaved ice, carnation milk and a variety of exotic fruits that is really good to eat when its hot outside. These deserts had macapuno (shredded coconut), beans and a couple of other ingredients, and then on the top had lechflan that you mixed into your desert. It was delicious! Here is a pic of all of us there. We had to kill some time because it wasn't until around 5 oclock until we were going to meet Cecilia at the Starbucks in Shoe Mart so that she could come with us to Angeles City. It worked out because her parents were going to be in Bataan, close to San Fernando Valley where we were. We hung out at the mall, then headed back towards town and there we went to my Uncle's building that he owns- the Excelsior- to drop my mom off at the dentist. Since we had to wait for her for a pretty long time, we went to Curly Cues next door and treated ourselves to a pedicure, back massage and hand massage! My dad got his hair colored and the royal treatment including a mani and pedi! It was awesome... my treatments cost me almost 900 pesos.. which is 18 bucks! We got back to the house and then Winnie was going to the R&B with some of her friends so Cecilia and I tagged along. Ok- I was SO tired but I thought.... one drink couldn't hurt and it was only about 10:30am. Well 4 hours later... I finallly got some sleep! Winnie's friends were hilarious and we had a good time, danced at Club Bossa to some kickin' PI tunes- but since I hadn't slept now in almost 48 hours, it was time to retire.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

We made it to Hong Kong!

Well, I left Los Angeles and took a red-eye flight to the Philippines, stopping in Hong Kong. I am with my parents and will be meeting up with my best friend Cecilia and her parents. It is Friday morning here around 8 in the morning and we just landed in Hong Kong about an hour ago! Just wanted you guys to know that we made it safe and sound and are going to board very soon for our short flight from Hong Kong to Manilla- only an hour and a half. As you can see, the skies were friendly and we had a really smooth ride here. Right when we boarded the flight, we all passed out (around 2am) and didn't even wake up until almost 9am! (No drugs needed, ha!) It was great that 7 hours flew by so quickly, of course we had another 7 to go!

They served us some beef and chicken dishes for dinner which was actually pretty good- mine tasted like one of dad's dishes served with rice and veges! The cheesecake that came with it was pretty good too! Then for a snack, they served us the cup-o-soup that comes in a styrofoam cup and it was accompanied by chopsticks! All during the flight, they had mini ham and cheese sandwiches, peanuts and drinks to choose from so let's just say we never got hungry. For breakfast, we got omlettes with sausage, yogurt, fruit and a muffin! I like the way Cathay Pacific rolls... ok- I can't eat for a while! I am sooo stuffed!
This is what it looked like flying into Hong Kong. It was so beautiful and remember these were taken around 6am so the sun was just rising. I can't believe how green it looks and then all of a sudden you see about a hundred high rise buildings. It was so beautiful flying in... too bad we will only be here for another hour and can't tour around. I will try and blog at my next opportunity but just wanted everyone to know we are safe and sound!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

My new board!

I just bought a new surfboard recently and totally excited! Just wanted to post a pic of us surfing a couple weeks ago- I know, I am SO behind posting.... I seem to mention that in every post these days. So I bought my new board off a chick on Craig's list and got it for a great deal! I went surfing practically the next day because I was so excited to get out there. The board is a beast- 9'3"- so basically, I can catch about any wave I try to. However, it is so big and I still need to learn how to control this board- ok, so I need to actually learn how to surf I should say. I am learning but hopefully I will pick this up because I just LOVE being out in the ocean. I can't believe how warm the water actually is... I did an ocean swim for an hour in a half in nothing but my bathing suit!

So Ly, Yung, Geetah, Ron and whoever else's board I used-- I am ready to go surfing anytime now that I have my new board! Below is a pic of my good friend Kevin (or K-fed like I like to call him) who comes out with me... he just bought a board the day after we went out this day! K-fed, when I get back- we will go out every day that we can! I can't wait... I am so psyched!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

I hope that everyone had a great 4th of July holiday! Too bad it falls on a Wednesday this year, right in the middle of the week- but nonetheless, it's a day off work and nice that it breaks up the week... it would be nice to have Wednesdays off every week!

Well, one year ago, I was in Peru on the Salkantay Trek headed to Macchu Pichu. I can't believe its been a year since I did the big trip to South America and almost two years ago since Hurricane Katrina hit. Time really has flown by and my life has just changed so drastically since all of that happened. As I look back on everything, I really can't complain about where I am in my life, where I live-- about anything really. Everyday, I am meeting more and more people and I am feeling more at home here in California. It was such a big transition for me to move here, as many of you know, and thats not to say that the transition is over. It's still happening but getting easier-- thanks to all of you (you know who you are) who are there for me every day and listening to me jibber jabber about my life, etc.. If it wasn't for all of you- I don't know how I would handle things and where I would be today. I hope that all my friends and family know how important you are to me in my life right now and how much I need you all.

I reflected on that a lot today as I woke up and did a really long run and weights after. I needed that after the day I had today! Thanks to Joey (as always) for hosting a great bbq and I loved the guitar jam session! I really need to learn more songs on the guitar so I can hang with you and Ben! We ate a ton of food and I don't think I could eat another sugar cookie for a long time! I hope that everyone had a happy and safe 4th! Love you guys, Riza